Working at a video store to help put himself through
college isn't the most glamourous gig, but Johnny's
gotten used to that. He's done the glamour thing, too,
now, and it ain't all it's cracked up to be. It takes
a lot more work than the average schlub realizes to
put on a costume and go save a city full of strangers
night after night.
For one, there's that whole secret identity thing that
Johnny never liked (and was never any good at, if you
have stick-up-the-ass Heroing Standards like Ritchie
did). He doesn't know how the big-name heroes do it,
how they keep their work and their civilian lives
separate. Hell, he'd almost blown it with Kathy on one
of his first times out. He's always wished he could've
been "Johnny Gallo, the hero known as Ricochet," had
even thought about ditching the mask early on.
Probably the only things that kept it on him were the
team and his...abilities. It's okay for Ricochet to
have mutant powers—he's a hero. Heroes are supposed to
be larger-than-life and have all kinds of cool powers.
It's really, really not okay for Johnny Gallo to be
anything other than human.
But Johnny isn't Ricochet anymore. His days are still
filled with classes and studying, and his nights don't
get any more exciting than the occasional customer
running into the store just before closing, hoping to
avoid late fees on their rentals.
He doesn't even get that tonight, though. He's already
locked up the store and balanced the register, and now
he's shelving the last batch of returns. He's sticking
Tomb Raider back on the 'new releases' rack when
someone knocks on the door. Johnny ignores it because
they can't see him from this angle, but they knock
"We're closed. Drop it in the overnight slot," he
"It's me, Rico. Let me in, dammit!"
Johnny jogs over to the counter and grabs the keys,
and he can see Eddie huddling into his coat under the
light snow flurries. He unlocks the door slowly,
making a production of it. 'Search the keyring,
examine some keys, find the right one, slide it into
the lock. Watch Eddie flip him the bird, smirk, twist
"Jesus, it's cold out there!" Eddie says, shoving the
door open as soon as Johnny pulls the key back out.
"Think you could've made me wait a little longer?"
"Hey, I can still throw your ass back out in the
snow," Johnny replies. He relocks the door while Eddie
takes off his coat and gloves and scarf, which happens
to be the scarf that Johnny thought he lost a week
ago. "The hell, man? That's mine."
Not that he minds *that* much, but it's the principle
of the thing.
Eddie mumbles something and looks anywhere but at
"What was that?"
"I said I took it because it smelled like you." Eddie
glares at him over his glasses.
Johnny takes his scarf back and sniffs before he sets
it on the counter. There's a hint of his own cologne
still there, but mostly it smells like Eddie, now. He
kinda gets the appeal. "You're such a girl," Johnny
says, but he pulls Eddie in and kisses him.
Eddie is definitely not a girl.
He pushes Johnny back against the counter, leans into
him, and takes over. They've been feeling out this
relationship for a few months, now, and for all that
Eddie is the sappy, romantic one, he can get pretty
aggressive when they fool around. Sex is the
relationship equivalent of the Hornet suit for him.
And Johnny, well, he doesn't have any complaints. Just
because they don't fight crime anymore doesn't mean
the Ricochet costume hasn't been out of the closet a
few times. Eddie has a thing for the boots.
He's also a great kisser, which Johnny is really
appreciating right about now. Especially when Eddie
licks his tongue, then bites his bottom lip a little.
He uses his good hand to pull Johnny's hips in against
his own, and that leads to a lot of extra groping. It
makes Johnny want to do things he really shouldn't do
while they're still in Flix and any jerk on the street
can see them through the door.
Johnny pulls back just enough so he can bite that spot
on Eddie's neck that gets him all hot and bothered,
and he says, "Eddie?"
"Wha?" He's tugging Johnny's shirt out of his jeans
and stroking along the skin just above the waistband.
"I really want you..."
"Uh-huh..." His hand splays over the small of Johnny's
back, and he nuzzles Johnny's throat.
"...to help me finish shelving."
Eddie jerks back and glares at him again. "You're such
an ass. I'm not helping you."
"Aw, come on, Eddie. Please? The sooner I'm done, the
sooner we can go back to my place," Johnny wheedles.
"Not even if I wear the boots later?"
"N-um." Eddie's eyes sort of glaze over. He's lost in
thought for a minute, then he nods. "Okay."
Johnny grins. "Great. Now these," he says, pointing
Eddie at a stack of movie boxes, "go on that rack
there, in alphabetical order."
He smacks Eddie on the ass and hightails it to another
Between the two of them, it only takes ten minutes to
finish putting up all the movies. When they put their
coats on, Johnny magnanimously allows Eddie to keep
his scarf, which earns him a shy smile. He hums as he
arms the security system, and they step out into the
snow. They'll have to walk a couple of blocks to catch
the bus and then a few more from the bus to his house,
but Johnny doesn't mind so much. His dad is working
third shift this week, which means he can bring Eddie
over for the night, and that totally makes up for the
walk in the cold.
Hell, Eddie's always been worth a long walk in the
snow. He's a good guy, and even in the beginning, when
he had Kathy and Eddie liked Cassie, there was
something between them. They'd just gotten closer
after they gave up being heroes. Eddie was there for
him when he broke up with Kathy, and he was there for
Eddie when he got shot down by the hot librarian. Then
they'd gotten drunk in Eddie's dorm room after hell
week, junior year. They'd ended up making out in
Eddie's bed and...really not regretting it in the
Sort of like they'd both been waiting for it to
Johnny wonders if he should stay home next weekend or
go up to the McDonoughs' place for Thanksgiving.
Eddie's parents are cool, and unlike Johnny's dad,
they're totally okay with the fact that their son is
seeing another guy. His dad tries, but Johnny can
always tell he's uncomfortable when Eddie's over.
At the bus stop, they stand maybe a little closer than
'just friends' but not close enough to make anybody
nervous. It's early enough that there are plenty of
people around, mostly late workers and bar hoppers,
but it's late enough that they still have to be
careful. Leading a double life left both of them with
a healthy sense of paranoia. Never know when some
asshole will decide he needs to prove his manhood.
Johnny watches the falling snow for a few minutes
before he almost jumps out of his skin. His danger
sense is going off something fierce. He looks around
as covertly as he can, but something really bad is
going down nearby. He gets a chill up his spine when
he focuses on an alley a few buildings down. There.
His leg jerks in that direction before he can stop
"Johnny?" Eddie looks worried but alert.
"Alley," he says. "Something bad."
They share a look, and they agree: gotta check it out.
Just because they don't fight crime anymore doesn't
mean they can turn their backs on somebody who's in
Carefully, trying not to draw attention from any of
the other people at the bus stop, they edge away and
head for the alley. Eddie's got his cell phone out,
ready to call 911. Johnny flexes his hands and wishes
he had his discs. The whole suit would be even better,
but Ricochet randomly showing up here after three
years would raise too many questions.
They hit the mouth of the alley, and Johnny presses up
against the wall, shoving Eddie back behind him. He
takes a deep breath, then looks around the corner.
Yeah, it's bad.
There's a big guy with a knife standing over a woman
in her nightgown, talking low and menacing. The lady's
ankles and wrists are bound with duct tape, and
there's a piece over her mouth, too. A little boy in
pajamas is crying next to a dumpster. He's bleeding
from a cut on his forehead.
Johnny's fingers twitch toward his sleeve, reaching
for a disc that's not there, and he curses silently.
That's when the kid sees him and starts to crawl over.
"Where you goin', Davey? Daddy's not done talkin' to
Mommy yet," the big guy says.
Which gives Johnny all of about two seconds to grab a
broken brick off the ground and say, "Yeah, you are,"
as he steps out where the guy can see him.
Daddy flips his knife around and takes a run at
"Davey, run," Johnny calls. "Eddie, get the kid out of
here!" He throws the brick as hard as he can, praying
it'll make contact. It's been too long since he's done
the hero gig. He gets lucky, though, 'cause the brick
hits the guy square in the eye.
It makes him drop his knife and fall to his knees.
Bright blood streams through the fingers of the hand
he's holding to his face. Johnny risks a glance
backward and sees Eddie on the sidewalk with the kid,
phone tucked between his ear and shoulder as he tries
to talk to the emergency dispatcher and check Davey
over at the same time. That's one less thing to worry
about, so Johnny gets in close enough to land a kick
on Daddy's head. He hears a definite crunch as the
guy's nose breaks under his heel.
The mom is cowering against the wall, whimpering under
the tape gag. Johnny grabs the guy's knife off the
ground so he can cut her free, but he misjudged how
much pain the guy is feeling, or maybe just how smart
the guy is. A hand wraps around his ankle and jerks,
yanking Johnny off his feet. He hits the grimy ground
"You're messin' with the wrong guy, punk," Daddy
"Funny, I was about to say the same thing," Johnny
They start grappling, and Daddy pins him. A crushing
grip on his wrist makes him drop the knife. As his
head slams into the concrete a couple of times, Johnny
wishes he'd made Ritchie teach him a few wrestling
moves back in the day. The best he can do now is buck
and twist and try to get the guy off of him, land a
few punches if he can.
Daddy makes the mistake of kneeling up for leverage,
and Johnny manages to get a leg between them. He
plants his foot in the guy's stomach and shoves hard.
Daddy goes flying into the wall headfirst. He slides
down it and lays there almost completely still, just
his chest moving as he breathes.
"Fuck..." Johnny mumbles. His hands are shaking.
The knife is a few feet away, and he crawls over to
it. He doesn't trust his legs just yet. Blade in hand,
he makes his way back to the woman. She's slumped
against the wall, crying and shivering.
"Just a sec, ma'am," Johnny says. He saws at the duct
tape around her wrists until it gives, then pulls it
off and starts on the tape around her ankles while she
yanks the strip off of her mouth. As soon as he gets
that out of the way, he backs off.
She follows, though, throwing her arms around him and
sobbing into his chest. "Thank you, thank you... Oh,
god, where's my David?"
"He's safe, ma'am. He's with my friend Eddie." Johnny
takes off his coat and puts it around her icy
shoulders. "Why don't you go to him while I take care
of this guy?" he suggests gently.
The woman lurches to her feet and dashes out of the
alley. Johnny can hear her cry of relief when she
finds her son.
Daddy is laying where Johnny left him, but Johnny
isn't about to take any chances. He uses his scarf to
hogtie the guy, then he staggers out to the sidewalk.
Eddie's on him in a second.
"Jesus, Rico," he says, wrapping himself around
Johnny. "You scared the hell out of me."
"I scared the hell outta me, too," Johnny mutters. He
looks over Eddie's shoulder and sees Davey with his
mother, both of them wrapped up in his coat. It's
stopped snowing, too. Everyone's safe, he realizes.
"Johnny, you're bleeding!" Eddie yelps, touching the
back of Johnny's head. When he pulls his hand back,
there's blood smeared on his fingers.
"I think I need to sit down."
When the cops and ambulance and press arrive, Johnny
and Eddie are sitting on the sidewalk, sharing Eddie's
coat. Davey and his mom, Laine, are next to them on a
crate. It was a noble sacrifice to let them have a
seat, but nobility doesn't unfreeze Johnny's ass from
the concrete. He'd better be getting some serious TLC
later to make up for it. From the deathgrip Eddie's
had on his hand this whole time, though, he's pretty
sure that's a given.
They answer the cops' questions while a paramedic
checks Johnny for a concussion. Then the officers move
on to Laine and Davey, and someone brings Johnny his
coat back. He shrugs into it carefully.
"Looks like you're okay," the paramedic tells him.
"Your pupils are reacting fine, and you don't seem to
be disoriented. Just take it easy for a while, okay?"
he says as he closes his bag.
"Sure, man. Thanks."
"Excuse me, can I get a few words?"
Johnny is blinded by a camera flash, and he and Eddie
spend the next few minutes fielding questions from a
reporter. It's not as fun as he used to think it'd be,
all those times he wished somebody would come
interview Ricochet. When he fumbles, Eddie fields the
improv answers, making up something to explain why
they'd walked away from the bus stop and passed the
alley at just the right time. Johnny decides to blame
his own slowness on the head injury.
In any case, it turns out that Laine's ex-boyfriend
had been released from prison a few days ago, and he
was pissed that she wouldn't let him come see their
son. He'd decided to take Davey away, instead. When
Laine tried to stop him, he'd tied her up and dragged
her into the alley to kill her. That was where Johnny
and Eddie came in, and now they'll be in the morning
paper. Two average joes save mother and young boy.
Laine comes up to them as soon as the reporter is
gone. A blanket from the ambulance is draped over her
shoulders. "Boys? I just wanted to thank you again.
Here," she says, and she slides a scrap of paper into
Johnny's hand. "I can't do much to repay you, but I'd
like to make you dinner some night. If you hadn't come
by..." She trails off, looking back at Davey, who's
playing with one of the cops.
He came out okay, except for that gash on his
forehead. And the emotional damage of watching his
father try to kill his mother, which Johnny doesn't
want to think about.
"We'd like that, ma'am," Eddie says.
She hugs them both quickly. "You're our heroes."
Eddie looks at him, and they're both thinking back to
nights in masks, the wild joy of flying over the city.
Johnny nods and squeezes Laine's hand briefly. "We're
just glad you're both safe."
When he was a kid, his mother used to tell him he was
special. When he was Ricochet, he used to wish he
didn't have to hide behind a mask to help people. When
he quit the vigilante life, he'd thought he'd never
get to save anybody again.
But tonight, Johnny Gallo is a big damn hero.